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High school baseball: North Hall salvages doubleheader split in second-round playoff series against Lovett
Deciding Game 3 in 6 p.m. Friday
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Caleb Wiley of North Hall (7) hits the ball on Thursday, May 3, 2018, in Gainesville, during the first in a three-game series in the second round Class 3A state baseball playoffs between North Hall and Lovett at Jody Davis Field. - photo by David Barnes

North Hall baseball coach Trevor Flow gave an enthusiastic postgame speech to his group after a remarkable display of resiliency in a doubleheader against Lovett in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs Thursday, May3, at Jody Davis Field. The Trojans (24-6) haven’t won the series yet, but have lived to play another day. 

After absorbing a run-rule loss in the first game of the doubleheader, North Hall continued to battle in the nightcap and won, 7-6, in nine innings to keep the series alive and force a deciding Game 3 today in Gainesville. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

“I’m as proud of this group of inexperienced players as I could possibly be,” Flow said. “This team just refuses to lose.”

Caden Bales, the sophomore designated hitter, was the hero of the night for the defending state champion Trojans, driving in the go-ahead run on a double to right field in the ninth inning. The left-handed hitter also stroked a game-tieing double with two outs in the seventh off Lovett (21-9) reliever Grayson Nix. 

“We’re down to our last out in the seventh inning and Caden steps up with a huge hit,” Flow said. 

In the ninth inning, the Trojans started the visitor’s portion with a lead-off single by Caleb Wiley. North Hall’s runner took to second on a passed ball with Tyler Brooks at the plate and kept going to third when he saw nobody for Lovett was covering the bag.

In the 11-1, six-inning loss in Game 1, Flow had the presence of mind to pull starter and Georgia Tech signee Reese Olson after two innings and 54 pitches, knowing he would be needed again should the Trojans pull off the split. 

Thanks to four strong innings of relief work on the mound by Mark Swett in Game 2, North Hall did just that. 

Olson could still throw 66 pitches in the rubber game, in accordance to GHSA pitch-count rules. Once Olson left the game, he took to third base and made a number of clean plays on hard-hit ground balls and threw across the diamond for the out. 

Flow said Swett or Olson could both be called up to start with the season on the line for Game 3. 

In Game 2, left-hander Caleb Clark pitched into the sixth inning and left the game with North Hall trailing by only a run. 

Once North Hall tied it up in the top of the seventh, Swett closed the door on the strong-hitting Lions over the next three innings to eventually lock up the win. 

In the bottom of the ninth, Lovett got its lead-off hitter on base, but a pop fly out on a bunt attempt by Robert Poindexter cut into its rally. 

North Hall kept itself in Game 2 by chasing Lovett starting pitcher Dhruv Patel, who pitched four innings and allowed seven hits. Trailing 3-1 with a pair of runners on in the top of the third, North Hall scored a pair of runs when a grounder to the shortstop was flipped to second base for the first out but the ensuing throw on the double-play attempt went over the first baseman, allowing a pair of Trojans runners to score. 

Lovett second baseman Peyton Ringer turned a second-inning double into a triple with aggressive base running, and scored when the relay throw to third base went in the Lions’ dugout. Ringer had a solo homer for Lovett in Game 1 of the series. 

Lovett took control of the first game of the series with five second-inning runs as a result of three fielding errors by North Hall. 

Evan McKown and Trent Beavor each had two hits and scored twice in the opener for Lovett. Lions starting pitcher Ben O’Meara was sharp, throwing all six innings and allowed just three hits and no walks. 

The series winner advances to face the third game winner of the Worth County/Southeast Bulloch series. Those two teams played to a doubleheader split Thursday.

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